After ten wonderful years, the time has come to say jumpa lagi, Malaysia. Here are some observations I’ve made about Malaysia over the past decade:
As a British citizen, I’ll start by talking about the weather, which is predictable in Malaysia. You can see the rain coming, and when it rains, it pours. Malaysia’s tropical thunderstorms are spectacular. Then one hour later, the sky clears, and summer resumes. It’s usually about 30 degrees Celsius, so, remember to sip water throughout the day.
Malaysians adore food, and where to eat is a frequent topic of conversation. The country is a multicultural food paradise but be warned you may experience the occasional upset tummy. My personal favourite is the Kanna Curry House in Bandar Menjalara. Beyond this, Malaysia has an impressive variety of fruit. However, as I depart the country, I can finally admit that the only good thing about durians is that they hang out with mangosteens.
With stunning scenery and radiant rainforests, Malaysia makes for a beautiful holiday destination. Our family favourite is the Kuala Gandah Elephant Conservation Centre in the Krau Wildlife Reserve. Unlike, Indonesia and the Philippines, Malaysia is free from natural disasters such as earthquakes, typhoons and volcanic eruptions but does experience occasional flooding and landslides. And sadly, haze chokes the Malaysian population with burning peaking from July to October during Indonesia’s dry season.
Strategically located, Kuala Lumpur grants you access to the world. Subang Airport gives access to regional flights and provides easy access to Singapore ready for an 0930-meeting; that said, please do build a high-speed rail link. Kuala Lumpur International Airport offers global access. KL itself is a relatively congested city; however, a trip to Jakarta or Manila soon adds perspective. Malaysia’s interstate highways are of high-quality but do attract speedsters.
Manglish binds Malaysia’s multi-lingual population together; everyone mixes up languages. Malaysians like to use acronyms and abbreviations, and Manglish helps people to communicate quickly by avoiding the use of complete sentence structures. Top apps include Grab for transport, food and payment, Shopee for shopping, Waze for navigation, WhatsApp for messaging and Zoom for meetings.
Quality of Life
I’ve been here long enough to see the impact of inflation and tax changes. Still, on the whole, the country provides a low cost of living and high quality of life for educated professionals and expatriates. However, the reality is quite different for the Bottom 40% and migrant workers who effectively exist on the other side of a two-tier system.
Malaysia has a more developed ASEAN economy, but with only 32 million people, lacks the population size of some of its neighbours. In general, Malaysia needs to compare itself to Singapore, which necessitates further talent development, digitisation, the continued emergence as a startup ecosystem and productivity gains. Only then will the country increase foreign direct investment and lure multinational corporations. The current reality is that Malaysia indebtedness is rising, the population is ageing, and the urban-rural divide needs a long-term policy solution.
Malaysia’s needs to forge an identity based on shared values which draw strength from its unique culture and heritage. Over time, this will foster trust amongst the rakyat and good governance while facilitating economic development. The current cycle of identity-based politics is polarising by nature and limits the potential of this great country. In the 2021 World Press Freedom Index, I suspect that Malaysia will see a significant decline in its ranking.
Healthcare services in Malaysia are available at public and private institutions. Universal health coverage is comprehensive, but the system suffers from the same challenges seen elsewhere, such as increasing demand, equipment costs and staffing issues. Though inaccessible for most, private healthcare is ranked up there with the best. While it is too early to declare victory, Malaysia is winning the war against COVID-19.
I feel fortunate to be on TalentCorp’s Residence Pass-Talent scheme, a 10-year renewable pass for qualified individuals. The Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) programme, provides others with a key to the country; however, please be warned that this scheme is under review.
My family and I are grateful to Malaysia as the experience has taught us so much, and we are truly fortunate to have called Malaysia home. I have made some great friends, worked with some inspirational entrepreneurs and colleagues as well as some genuinely innovative clients.
Stay safe and keep in touch!